Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The D Word

If you haven't read the first part of the story, read here, then come back.

I know that he never expected to get "caught" on the subject about wondering if my meds were making me a super-bitch or not, but I'm glad I saw it because it was a catalyst for both of us.

The look on his face after I said that was one of sad realization that I was right.  We weren't happy.  We loved each other.  We knew under any circumstances that we had each other's backs, would fight to the death for one another, were each other's ride or die, but that doesn't mean you're necessarily happy with the state of things.  You know you're capable of more and are just too lazy to put in the work.  I told him I thought we should see a marriage therapist and he said he wanted to try to fix it on our own.  I wasn't super happy with that answer but told him I was willing to work at it, but if I didn't feel it was working, I would insist we go, and he agreed.

At first, I thought maybe it was just a sex thing.  Not to give TMI but it wasn't happening often, so I got Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life and Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship.  I have to say, regardless of how much sex you are or aren't having, these are amazing reads particularly the first one.  I think it should be required reading for every human on the planet.  A lot of things were clicking for me including how we both assumed that when the other gave "that look" or played grab-ass walking past the other that it put a pressure to have sex on the moment.  Sometimes it's the closeness that you need more than the sexual act.  Sure, it can lead to that, but putting that pressure on ourselves when we had so much else going on made it feel like one more thing on a never-ending list.

I was feeling emotionally smaller and smaller for a lot of reasons.  When Grandma was diagnosed with dementia, we all read The 36 Hour Day, which we all agreed should basically be our Bible in how her health care should go as it all made a lot of sense.  There came a point where the Mr and I were the only ones who still agreed with that, and everyone else was making decisions we didn't feel were in her best interest.  They came from a good place but not what she would've wanted knowing what kind of woman she was and how modest she was.  My opinion was asked, then discarded when it didn't line up with theirs.  Eventually, I had to not even discuss her care with them because I would get so angry, so I shut down.  In 2016, there was an attempt at reconciliation with my dad.  I never considered us in a feud, but he had no problem telling his family we were.  I guess with Grandma's situation, I told myself if anything happened to him, I would want to have a totally clear conscience.  (I already do because I attempted it before.)  Things looked like they were on the right track, but nothing changed, which is what I expected, but I took another emotional hit from it.  The only reliable person in my life was beginning to feel like a roommate and we both deserved more than that.

I got Relationship Agreements: A Simple and Effective Guide for Strengthening Communication, Reducing Conflict, and Increasing Intimacy to Design Your Ideal Relationship.   At first, I didn't care for the book because I didn't like the authors writing style even if they had some valid points.  I thought the Mr wouldn't like it either because it talked about renting a place and just hashing everything out in a setting different from your own home and make a physical agreement that we would follow.  To my surprise, he loved the idea and was very excited about many aspects of the book.  He can still surprise me.

On his own, he ordered several books to begin working on what would send him to that place or why it was so important that he "wins" on the road.  The first one was Anger Management Workbook for Men: Take Control of Your Anger and Master Your Emotions.  He also got one called No More Mr. Nice Guy which, I'm not gonna lie, made me cry when he told me he got it.  He said his goal in life was not to turn into some colossal a-hole, but he needed to learn to assert himself in all aspects of life.  At work, he gets dumped a lot of work on him because he does it well, and rarely said no or made people carry their weight. 

When Grandma died, the Mr and I took a break from the heavy talks of our discontent, vowed to do better, and he was there for me completely during all of it just as I knew he would be.  We went on vacation, and things seemed a little better.  We were reconnecting, but in the end, it was without digging as deep as we needed to go into ourselves.  It's hard to fix what's wrong with a relationship before doing work on yourself.   It's like putting two beat up tires on a car.  It'll get you down the road, but eventually, they're going to blow out.  When we got back, the patio remodel started almost immediately, and anyone who remembers that cluster knows just how bad that was and it lasted for months.  It was maddening calls and texts back and forth with the owner who subcontracted us out, and they messed up everything from the beginning to the end.  My frustration was at a fever pitch with it all, and even though I would go off, I tried to make it very clear I was not mad at the Mr which he assured me he understood.

When it seemed to be done, we ordered a monster grill to be delivered because I wanted to give the Mr a break and let someone else do the heavy lifting for once.  I told him twice the night before that if they came while I was working on something I needed to get done to not sign anything until after all the lids were lifted and the propane hooked up and checked to make sure it worked.  It's like when you sign for cabinets delivered to you, and if you don't make sure all cabinets are there and undamaged, it then becomes a HUGE issue to rectify afterward.  I was doing my work and thought I heard a truck but didn't pay much attention because I assumed he'd come in to get me when they were out back.  Then the Mr comes in, and the grill has been delivered, and they're gone.  I asked if he checked it over like we discussed and he said no, he signed, and they left.  I nervously went out to check on it, and sure enough, the side burner lid was sitting on top with no screws to hold it in.  I told him they needed to deliver the screws and come back and he said he could run across the street to get them, and we'd have a working grill.  Yeah, you could, but then we have to pay money for something we already paid for, and I want what we already paid for.  I'm sorry, but it's about the principle.  I paid extra for assembly and a working grill, that's not what you gave us.  The Mr drove to Lowes tells the dude what happened and that he's taking screws for the grill from the hardware section.  The guy agreed even though he said the Mr could open a new grill and take the screws from that.  Oh okay, so now I know what happened with ours!  It was fixed, but we were both still pissed at the situation and each other.  Me at him for not doing what we discussed twice the night before and him at me for not just letting him go across the street and I was being stubborn over $3.

That night, I ordered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry.  I knew this was not about a screw for either of us.  It was about how we react when we both feel screwed.  I felt we could both benefit from this book, and I didn't know just how much based on something he revealed to me later that happened the same day I ordered it.

The next day, he was installing something in his car and asked for my help when he was ready, and I said yes because it's something I know a bit about.  I was finishing up some work, and 20 minutes later he came in and said he tried to do it, cut a slit in the dashboard on our 3-week old car and is now out of the material he ordered to complete it.

Obviously, there was an argument over why he did it without me when he'd just asked for my help, and he said I was busy so he didn't want to bother me and I basically cried the rest of the night.  At this point, I really did not see how we were going to do this.  Apparently, he didn't either because I found out 10 days later that night he went incognito and looked up apartments in the area and was going to ask for a separation so we could get our heads together.  He told me this after we'd had a good stretch of communication days as a way, to be honest with me about how bad that time was.

"So wait, you were mad about screws, stomped away not speaking to me and started looking at apartments instead of talking to me about it?"

"But I didn't!  It's too expensive for another place!" {laughing}

At that moment, while I appreciated his honesty and knowing he knew he was taking a risk telling me, this solidified every fear I ever had about him leaving me.  I sobbed uncontrollably in a way I hadn't in front of him for a long time.  I almost fainted and had to put my head down.  My head wouldn't stop spinning.  He swore this was the first time he did it, he knew it was stupid and how he should've handled it differently.  I looked him dead in the eye and said "if you want a divorce, just f*cking do it, but you will NOT hold it over my head ever again.  I understand that's not what you're doing right now, but I'm done being threatened with it, and if you loved me at all, a screw would not be all it took for you to leave me."

He understood the seriousness of what his reveal did to me and that indeed, what that screw symbolized should not have been all it took to go to "burn it down" mode.   That night I began looking up where you could sleep in your car on public land.  I knew I would not move back in with my mother.  I thought I could sleep in my car on my friend's driveway then start looking for a "real" job and hope I could find someplace in a neighborhood that wasn't too crappy for what I'd be making.   I just had to hope I wouldn't get sick because I wouldn't be able to afford health insurance, so I was glad I already had my doc appts for the year.  I now felt I needed an "escape plan" because I guess the rug could now be pulled out from under me over something like a missing screw.

At that point, you could say I declared a state of emergency for our marriage.  It was the end of July, and I feared we would not make it to the end of August.  We would be fine for 7-10 days then fight more than we'd fought in the previous 20 years.  It was a constant one step forward, three steps back.  Per the Relationship Agreement book, I looked for a cabin to rent within 1-2 hours of home in an area we'd already been so as not to be tempted to be out all day and not working on our agreement.  I had a place booked for two weeks later.  He didn't understand why I was so adamant on that time frame and said it would be fine, but I told him it was booked for two weeks from now and without it, I didn't know if we'd be together in four.  I ordered Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America's Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship because it gave specific examples of how some couples thought along with what the therapists saw happening and how to correct it which was incredibly helpful.  We could see a lot of ourselves in the way we dealt with conflict, which was getting us nowhere in being on the same team.

We got to the cabin, checked it out, and got to work on some of the exercises in the book.  We each had a notebook to journal in and write down our answers to exercises we did.  I found that he would hear me better when I journaled about an event we were arguing over and showed it to him when we calmed down.  If I tried to talk to him, my voice kind of turned in to Charlie Brown adult voices to his ears.  We made a relationship agreement outline based on the kind of weak examples given in the book.  We had five categories that were important to us, and I'll give you an example of a goal from each category.

Conflict Resolution- Verbalize emotions as you feel them, no withdrawing or retreating

Connection- 3x week of connection time- non-negotiable.

Personal Growth- Monthly check in's

Communication-No withdrawing, mind-reading, filling in the blanks.  Ask questions.

Household- 10-15 minutes per night to clean if you haven’t done it during the day.  Messy house= stressed mind.

Some may say, "big deal, you took a vacation."  No.  We have vacationed one to three times a year together since 1999, and we have never dug deep like that.  We can spend time together on vacation, but that time is to get away from all of the stresses.  No one wants to sit down on their vacation time and hash out what needs to be fixed with you.  We felt a renewal and a hope we hadn't felt before.

I ordered one final book after we got back called Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship.   It was very insightful for showing what style you identify with and how to defuse potential fights.  With each book I got, the Mr read it when I was done in addition to the ones he got on his own.

His driving improved quite a bit, and I no longer felt unsafe riding with him.  He put his no more Mr. nice guy to work at work with excellent results.  He no longer has a problem calling people on their crap even if he's stuck doing the work sometimes.  His ability to tell people "no, there is a chain of command to follow, and I can't let you circumvent that" has actually made his team stronger.  It has given them the confidence to also say no to people who say "oh, well the Mr isn't going to do it for me so maybe Brian will," and then Brian says "follow the chain of command" because they know the Mr will back him up.  A few times, the Mr has even messaged the person and said, "what, I won't do it, so you go to my team member!?"  It's been awesome to see the confidence that has instilled in him.  He's also made strides choosing what he will and won't accept from his family crap wise which is a far cry from the boy I first met.

In turn, I also began to think about what I was going to say and if it had the potential to be misunderstood.  In times I would usually go off in frustration, I would take a beat and say "okay, I don't think I'm explaining this right" because I always think I'm doing a pretty good job of explaining and of course everyone else should "get it."  The first part of my life, I was like a bomb.  I felt like I moved to a defuser role because my mom's hormones post lady-bit surgery didn't sit well with anyone, and I didn't feel like spending all of my time arguing.  I feel even more like I bite my tongue in situations and the Mr says he sees that in me where he KNOWS I would've gone off before.  He said it makes him sad though because I then internalize it and feel like crap about myself.  I tried some CBT methods to deal with it but didn't find it too successful for me in some situations.  I got the book The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (why do these all have LONG ass names!?)  I haven't gotten through it yet but it kind of teaches you to not replace negative thoughts but more to be able to live with them in a way that doesn't overwhelm you.  I need to get back to that book because I'm tired of being a prisoner in my mind and my jaw in a constant state of clench.

So there!  We're fixed!  I'm kidding, we're not.

Because with every bit of hope, something is waiting around the corner to potentially set you back.  See ya tomorrow.

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  1. As mentioned in yesterday's post, my upbringing instilled a fear of "what others will think" in me that has been a big obstacle in my entire life actually. The fact that I agreed with you to share this with everyone shows me that I've come a long way in that regard and it was rewarding to see all the great comments yesterday because it showed me there was never any reason to fear that. I think others can relate in some ways to what we went through and maybe it helps to know you are not alone out there. Keep those comments coming people!

    1. It's been a while and I fell out of touch reading. but yesterday's post got me sucked back in. I am SO PROUD of both of you for digging into this and then telling us about it. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to see a post like this. Dealing with my own life (as we all are) posts like this are so necessary and helpful. I am going to check out some of the books listed in these posts. Thank you so much for agreeing to tell your story Mrs & Mr!

    2. The fact that you never once hesitated sharing this and didn't change anything I wrote when given the chance says volumes about overcoming that issue. I know even 5 years ago, you would've been very uncomfortable talking about this because honestly, it really isn't anyone's business. But we know our story can benefit others even if it's a little painful to do.

      NerdyGirl- So glad to see you and thanks so much for the kind words! I agree and feel posts like this are necessary to remind each other we are all struggling with something and we can all benefit by working on ourselves.

  2. Wow! You guys are doing the hard work and will reap the benefits. Kudos to you for your commitment to figure it out. Seems alot of folks take the easy way out and simply peace out. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks, Dawn! It's not easy but worth it. Sadly, too many people do "peace out" thinking the grass is greener. But I wonder how many of them get 10 years in when things are "comfortable" and think "wow, I really had it a lot better with the other one.

  3. It is awesome how you are both dedicated to fixing what needs fixing, and strengthening your bond every step of the way. Relationships are hard, especially the deeply intimate ones, but with all the work you guys are doing, from reading books and implementing those tools, to having open discussions, it's all going to make for stronger communication and more happiness in your marriage. So very happy you're both on the same page and working together to build, and grow, and find your joy again!!

    1. Thanks mama! It is hard to look at yourself and the crap you bring to the table but also hard to look at the person you love and say "you bring some crap too, ya know!" LOL Continued progress is the name of the game and I think we've got a good game plan going forward that we need to make sure we stick to.

  4. On the “nice” issue, I have that too. My husband is seen as super nice. And I have come to realize it is actually shirking responsibility. (Your grill incident is perfect example.) So I feel you on that one.

    And I can see how the “nice” would then funnel into road rage.

    I am writing to suggest you consider getting the type of job that would support you, so you are not mentally or physically dependent. So whether from home or out in the world, one job or two, put your self in (more) equal financial status.

    And I think you do need to find a therapist. Maybe individual therapists. Maybe couples. Maybe both. I think you were absolutely correct when that was your gut reaction. Books and self help can be good. But I think you need an actual Person.

    1. It can turn into that for sure with a nice person/people pleaser personality. We all just have to be willing to relearn things that have been ingrained in us and thankfully, we are both doing with work with positive results that we are happy with! Thanks so much for your support and suggestions.


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